My parents live in nearby Hindhead, and we stumbled across Applegarth Farm recently, in neighbouring Grayshott (of Grayshott Spa fame).
In the same family for decades, Applegarth was struggling as a traditional farm shop, growing soft fruits and vegetables for local consumption and PYO, and also selling through the famous Covent Garden market in London.
But a recent change of focus has transformed the business, and it’s now bursting with foodie credentials for an appreciative local audience. The main Farm shop includes an outstanding deli counter, selling top-class locally sourced and made-on-the-premises produce such as charcuterie, quiches, pies, tarts, scotch eggs, ready-made meals, home-made breads, fruit, veg and much more.
But the real lure is an extended old barn, now a cosy restaurant serving a highly original, freshly cooked menu to 50 customers in the winter – warmed by a roaring fire – and 100 in the summer, spilling onto an attractive terraced area outside. There’s also a private dining cabin you can book separately for special occasions.
We’ve eaten here a couple of times recently and have love, love, loved the food, including roasted bubble ‘n’ squeak, with carved ham, creamed leeks, poached egg, crispy onions and hollandaise sauce (£9.95), glazed BBQ beef ribs with grilled baby corn, slaw, herbed fries and salad (£8.50 for 1/2 rack; £12.95 for the Full Monty), and sauteed mushrooms on soda toast with a soft poached hen’s egg (£6.50). See, I told you it was original!
Or, and we WILL try this very soon, take a plate through to the deli and load up from the saliva-inducing selection of cured meats, antipasti, mixed salads, scotch eggs, mini quiches and pies (£12.95).
The afternoon tea is legendary and – after today’s official Grind Off – I can confirm they also take their coffee very seriously. We were all invited to sample 4 freshly ground coffees, all from local artisan roasters, and rate each one – on a “blind” basis – for aroma, acidity, flavour etc. All free to us guinea pigs today, and the Farm will then give a 1 year contract to the winner to supply the restaurant’s coffee.
Other events include a “food & gin adventure”, a “beef & liberty” evening, and music nights. The restaurant is also open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
But it’s not entirely about food and drink: there’s a play area for children, gifts for sale in the shop, and artisan arts & crafts sold by local people in separate huts outside.
Plans are in place to significantly expand Applegarth, to provide a cookery school, market garden area, a larger restaurant and more. I just hope they don’t spoil the current ambience and balance, which is pretty close to perfect.
If you’re in this charming neck of the woods – or bombing down the A3 en route to Porstsmouth for the cruise ship – take the short detour to Grayshott for a bite to eat, and a cup of coffee, at “Applegarth Farm.”:http://www.applegarthfarm.co.uk/ You won’t be disappointed.